Saturday, June 6, 2009
Thank You For Smoking
The title is not original but my thoughts certainly are. Our very concerned, active and vociferous Health Minister (not anymore) Dr Anbumani Ramadoss declared a nationwide smoking ban sometime back.
According to the Government Notification you are prohibited to smoke in public places i.e. your office, Bus/Train stations, malls, restaurants, pubs and hookah bars. But you are however allowed to smoke on the roads. And all these days I thought that the roads were public place and your office wasn’t!
The second hand smoke that smokers puffed out was very harmful for non smokers and they were given this smoke without their wanting it. I’m sure the people who came to enjoy a smoke free environment in Hookah bars would be thrilled by this. After all Passive smoking is said to be as bad as active smoking if not more.
But Dr. Ramadoss was not totally inconsiderate to the poor smokers who are addicted to this poison by a deliberate ploy staged by the tobacco companies and by no fault of their own. They have been given a provision of having a smoking section inside Pubs/Bars/Clubs. Not only the guidelines for having a smoking section are incredibly easy to understand but very easy to follow too. Which has practically translated to 25 people smoking in a '6 X 6' room and enjoying first hand, second hand… tenth hand and god only knows what hand smoke. And if a non smoker goes there to give his smoker friend company he can enjoy it too without even paying for a single cigarette.
But the real genius of this whole ban is the part where people can smoke on the road. So we now have the entrances of Pubs/Clubs/Restaurants teeming with people who came out for a smoke. And trust me they are a sizable number. So they then can enjoy the first/second/tenth hand smoke out there, but it doesn’t stop here. They pass this enjoyment to the passers-by too on the street who did not have anything to do with the club.
It has been said the worst things in this world were done by people trying to make things better.
Latest I heard that they want to have a pictorial warning on the cigarette pack. Maybe somewhere they read that “A picture is worth a thousand words” and suddenly light dawned on Marble head. But in any case whoever thought they could educate the people about the ill effects of smoking from a cigarette pack must be a fucking genius, and not to forget that most cigarettes in India are sold loose, i.e. without the pack. So the only person getting educated might be the ‘Paanwala’ only. And after the millions of dollars cigarette companies spend on making the pack more attractive this stupid warning doesn’t stand a chance.
Also the fallacy lies in the fact that all the smokers are well aware of the ill effects. In fact according to a study most people over estimated the risks of smoking rather than under estimating it.
But the biggest blunder of this plan is the more unreachable and more ‘BAD’ they make cigarettes the more they will allure teens. And the biggest problem is teen smoking (by teen I mean here people around and below the age of nineteen/twenty and by adults somebody who is out of college and well settled). Most teens pick up smoking because of the ‘Adultness’ and ‘Badness’ of it. You remember that ad “With a cigarette in my hand I felt like a Man”? That’s as true today as it was true 15 years ago.
Most boys pick up smoking because they see their ‘role model’ the ‘macho guy’ the guy who has everything they don’t have but always wanted, smoking. And smoking is their easiest character trait to pick up. Or they do it to become a part of the ‘Cool Crowd’, all the ‘Cool’ people are doing it and they don’t wanna be left out.
And most Girls pick up smoking because they want to shatter the societal norms of ‘Good girls don’t smoke’ or they wanna be a part of the boys, ‘to be one of the guys’.
And who can deny the thrill of buying you cigarette, your heart beating, then sneaking it your room, lighting it when everyone’s sleep and sharing it with your best friend. You go to school/college the next day with your head high and an ‘all knowing smile’, everybody asks ‘I heard you smoked a cigarette last night! How was it? How did it feel like? Did you cough? Suddenly you are a celebrity!
Teen smoking is on the rise, while Adult smoking is steadily declining. That’s why companies like Zippo are coming up with Pens and Gas Lighters, because Adult smokers who buy their Cigarette lighters are declining.
An Adult will never ask an another Adult to smoke but a Teen will. “Abey pee le! Ab tu to bada ho gaya. Le ek kash leke dekh.”
Anyways getting back to Skull and cross bones. What he, Dr. Ramadoss probably overlooked was that the biggest killer in this country is not tobacco; it ain’t drunken driving or cancer either. It’s obesity. That causes a myriad of problems. Heart Disease, Diabetes, High blood pressure etc etc. So I think obesity causing products must be the first to be adorned with Skull and cross bones.
I would love to see Amul Girl to be replaced with Skull and Cross bones on the Amul butter, Ronald to be replaced with Skeletor outside every McDonalds. A statutory warning on the Sign Board of every ‘Halwai’. “Warning – Eating samosas is injurious to health”
By now you must be wondering if I smoke or not. As much as I sound like Nick Naylor from the movie of the same name as the Title. I don’t. I hate passive smoking too. In fact I am clinically allergic to cigarette ash. But I would leave you with one of Voltaire’s quotes – “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”